Internationally Recognized Top-Level Consultant, Writer, Author,
Public Speaker, and Webcaster on Microsoft Technologies
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Kenton Gardinier.
Kenton Gardinier is a senior consultant
with Convergent Computing. He has designed and implemented technical and
business driven solutions for organizations of all sizes around the world for
over 10 years. He has also led early adopter engagements implementing products
such as Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, and SharePoint Portal Server
2003 prior to the products' release for numerous organizations.
Kenton is an internationally recognized
author and public speaker. His speaking engagements include various industry renowned conferences as well as web casts.
He has authored, co-authored, and contributed to several books on Windows,
Exchange, security, performance tuning, administration, and systems management.
Kenton has also written several magazine columns specializing in various
technologies. He holds many certifications including MCSE, CISSP, and MCSA.
His latest book credits which are
attracting widespread reader attention are, Microsoft Windows Server
2003 Unleashed, Second Edition (Sams) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
Q: Kenton, as an acknowledged world
authority in Microsoft technologies, we are very fortunate to have you with us
for this interview. Thank you for taking the time!
A: Thank you Stephen, I welcome the
Q: With such an extensive background in
computing, can you share any surprising experiences?
A: Interestingly enough, being a consultant
on a variety of projects for organizations around the world has in some ways
numbed me to a majority of surprises. What some may consider to be alarming
issues, like a company not backing up critical infrastructure or having
wide-open security, are more commonplace than anyone would like to believe. I
have to admit though that when a company prides itself on a particular
technology, like selling products over the web, but doesn’t invest enough into
the infrastructure, such as not providing enough redundancy or failing to
follow industry standard security best practices, it always surprises me a little.
Q: Can you share with us, any humorous stories?
A: I’m not sure if you’d categorize this as
humorous but you definitely have to take a slightly light-hearted approach or
go insane. The first is the ever classic consultant/client relationship where
the client informs you that a particular system or solution has been working
flawlessly and that it hasn’t needed to be taken offline for a considerably
long time. Of course, when you happen to be in the same building when it
suddenly breaks, you may be asked why you didn’t warn them or provide advice on
how to mitigate the risk of downtime. Fortunately this doesn’t happen very
often. Before anyone learns this hard lesson, always make sure that you have
gained as complete an understanding of the environment or integrated parts
before designing or implementing a solution. Also, communication and
documentation can be lifesavers as well.
Q: Describe your work as a senior
consultant with Convergent Computing.
A: As a senior consultant, I’m constantly
faced with new and challenging opportunities which make the work all the more
exciting. It also gives me the chance to interact with many different people,
various management and operational styles, a myriad of technical solutions, as
well as a variety of different industries. One of the best aspects of
consulting is always determining business requirements and translating them
into technical requirements. You’re not just implementing technical solutions
because it’s the latest and greatest thing. You’re actually solving real-world
problems by leveraging your knowledge, soft skills, and experiences at other
Q: You have designed and implemented
solutions worldwide. Share with us two case studies and the lessons you have
learned from each one.
A: Case 1: A fairly recent world-wide
implementation of SharePoint Portal Server 2003 really reminded me how
important it is to get the business side of the company intimately involved
early on. This wasn’t necessarily completely reflective of the fact that it was
a world-wide implementation, but rather was an important consideration in any
size engagement. The business’ requirements and requests definitely helped
shape the solution but all the interaction between the various groups also
helped everyone understand other points of view, motivations, and constraints.
Case 2: Another important lesson quickly
learned from some of the larger solutions that I’ve helped deploy was very much
influenced because it was taking shape on a world-wide stage. For instance,
something as simple as working out scheduled downtimes for maintenance turned
out to require more than simply choosing appropriate times during after
business hours. Since this organization was located throughout the world, we
had to take time zones, cultures, and various lines of business (that worked on
different shifts) into account. As you can imagine, this influenced our design
as well. This is just one of many examples of why planning is critical to all
projects but especially to those larger ones.
Q: Talk about your early adopter
engagements implementing products such as Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server
2003, and SharePoint Portal Server 2003 prior to the products' release for
A: Early adopter programs are great
opportunities for all parties involved. It’s a win-win because everyone learns
about the product in great detail way in advance of others and you have an
opportunity to make the product(s) work better while providing a solution to
fit the business and technical needs of the organization. The teams that I have
worked with at Microsoft have been phenomenal and I keep up with them to this
Q: Share your top five tips from each of
A: 1) Speaking engagements:
a) Know your audience – without knowing who
you’re speaking to you may be caught unprepared or worse deliver a presentation
that doesn’t excite or attract your audience.
b) Prepare your presentation according to
c) Know your subject matter cold -
Technical audiences are more forgiving towards speaking inadequacies but not on
d) Integrate the audience - Provide demos,
questions, and other interactions to bring the audience into the presentation.
People don’t always want to be lectured.
e) When you think you are prepared, go back
and think about what people may want to find out.
2) Windows, Exchange, security, performance
tuning, administration, and systems management:
a) Be proactive in everything that you do.
Employ systems and operational management tools to help you better understand
the changing environment.
b) Seek and obtain executive sponsorship so
that decisions are driven mostly by the business rather than the latest
c) Take a methodical approach to projects
and include time for planning, design, prototyping, piloting, implementation,
d) Be flexible and listen carefully.
e) Do your research, learn from others, and
try to improve upon what you’ve learned or implemented.
a) Start the writing process by outlining
b) Know your material inside out… you’re
bound to get questions from readers.
c) Illustrate what you’re trying to convey
with examples and screen shots.
d) Help the reader along by providing
e) Be clear and concise!
4) Obtaining certifications including your
MCSE, CISSP, and MCSA.
a) It goes without saying that diligently
studying the material is a necessity.
b) Implement the products or technologies
several times in the real-world or a lab before taking the test.
c) Consult magazines, newsgroups,
colleagues, etc. to gain more insight.
d) Keep in mind that the Microsoft exams
reflect real-world scenarios more so now than they ever have before so
experience will help you pass more than mere memorization.
e) Hands-on knowledge is almost always more
valuable than certification.
Q: Provide an overview of your latest book
Windows Server 2003 Unleashed, Second Edition (Sams).
Why should our readers study this book? What differentiates it from other
A: One of the biggest factors that compels
me to recommend the book is that it is written through hands-on experience.
We’ve implemented Windows Server 2003 for countless organizations of all sizes
and many of those were well in advance of the product’s release. All these
experiences are shared in this book. One way that clearly differentiates it
from the competition is not only the content but the way it is organized. Plus,
there isn’t a lot of nonsense, rambling, or fluff just to make the book bigger.
Q: Provide ten tips from the book.
A: 1) Establish a caching-only server in
small branch office situations to alleviate large amounts of client query
traffic across the network and to eliminate the need to replicate entire DNS
zones to remote locations.
2) Use SMTP-based replication if the
physical links on which the replication traffic passes are not always on (or
3) When using ADMT, migrate groups into a
new domain first to keep users’ group membership intact.
4) Use the No Override and Block settings
in GPOs sparingly.
5) Use MOM or third-party operations
management application to proactively manage Windows Server 2003.
6) Use WMI to access and manipulate server
files and file security.
7) Document daily, weekly, monthly, and
quarterly maintenance tasks to ensure the health of the systems.
8) Use EAP-TLS authentication for both PPTP
and L2TP connections.
9) When load balancing Terminal Services,
use Session Directory server to manage sessions.
10) Automate patch management processes and
procedures using SUS, SMS, or a third-party product.
Q: Provide your viewpoints on the major
technologies today and where you see them in the future.
A: Unfortunately there is no simple answer
to this question and it greatly depends on an organization’s needs. For
instance, some organizations feel that tools for managing customer data with
customer relationship software is far more important than how employees access
the internal network.
With all the technologies that are out
there, it is still difficult to manage and make the best use of information
that we have. Improvements in database and search engine technologies are
making it easier to manage and work with information, but what exists today is
going to be vastly different tomorrow. These technologies comprise the backend
infrastructure for so many other technologies, applications, and solutions.
Whether you’re talking about messaging, directories, customer relationship
management, document management, or simple file storage, database and search
technologies usually are integral to them all. We’ll more than likely continue
to see dramatic improvements on those technologies as the information expands
and demands to understand it increase.
No matter what technology you’re designing
or implementing, security concerns will be at the forefront for some time to
come as well. It’s no longer totally up to companies how they’ll protect their
assets; the government is now actively involved and creating regulatory
Q: What are the ten most compelling issues facing IT and
business professionals today and in the future? How can they be resolved?
A: 1) Reactive mode – Use tools that will
help you to understand the current environment and keep watch over how it is
changing. This will help everyone from help desk personnel to the decision
2) Lack of standardization –
Standardization through the enterprise helps everyone with regards to training,
management, maintenance, support, and more. It sets a common ground to work
from. This could mean many things including which applications and versions the
organization supports, how systems are built, what technologies to deploy, and
more. The goal of standardization is to maximize efficiency and effectiveness
to save on the bottom line.
3) Poor planning and design – Don’t implement
something because there is a need. Instead focus on how the solution can affect
the systems that it interacts with and give sufficient time for planning and
4) Lack of documentation – Like planning
and design, it is important to set aside time for documenting configurations,
policies, and procedures. This will help reduce the learning curve with others
as well as build upon standardization within the company.
5) Security – Learn how your implementation
can affect the company’s security and determine ways to mitigate those risks.
6) Understanding the technologies – Reading or studying
about a technology doesn’t always give you enough insight. Work with the
technology in a lab before trying to implement it in a production environment.
7) Training – Training coincides with
understanding the technologies but the focus here is more on the provision of
materials, time, and resources that a company dedicates to training their
employees. Because so many companies are under more pressure to do more with less,
training is often the first to go or is severely decreased. Managers should
dedicate at least some time each year for training and education. Doing so will
help employees work more effectively and efficiently while at the same time
it’ll improve employee moral.
8) Understanding the business – Good
communication with the sponsors of a project or solution is key to deploying
the best and most appropriate solution.
9) Budget – While the economy is getting
better and better everyday, it is important to be cost conscious and plan
10) Taking initiative and responsibility –
It’s important to push forward and step up to the plate to drive projects and
the business in the right direction. This doesn’t mean go jump on a thin limb,
but it does mean that calculated risks may be necessary to take in order to see
Q: List the 10 best resources for
technology and business professionals.
A: 1) Our books
3) User groups
4) Resource kits
5) Web casts
7) Internal documentation
9) IT conferences
10) A lab environment
Q: What future books can we expect from
A: Probably something involving security
since that has been a major focus of mine for some time now.
Q: What do you consider to be the most
important trends to watch, and please provide some recommendations?
A: 1) Security – All technologies
2) Databases – On the Microsoft front, pay
particular attention to SQL Server and integration with other products.
3) Product convergence – Home automation,
car integration, and more are all getting hotter and hotter.
4) Windows integration with UNIX systems is
getting more and more important. Companies are always looking for the best
technology fit and it’s not uncommon for a solution to only exist on one of the
two platforms. You don’t need to be an expert with both operating system
platforms but it is highly recommended to familiarize yourself with both.
5) Companies are expecting better-rounded
employees to take on multiple facets of responsibilities. They’re looking for
people with both business understanding and technical know-how. Try to balance
interpersonal soft skills and technical experience.
Q: How do you keep up with the latest
technologies and trends?
A: I use the resources that I mentioned
earlier to learn what others have experienced. I also use a lab environment
with a variety of systems and technologies for building and testing purposes so
that I can try to stay one step ahead. However, with the sheer number of
technologies and products that are out there you can’t expect to be an expert
at all of them. Instead I pick the ones that interest me the most and run with
it. Then I delve into other technologies and products to make sure I have a
pretty good grip on how those systems work. I occasionally look into areas that
I don’t know or don’t well enough and take the initiative to learn as much as
possible about those technologies.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what question
would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answer?
A: Q1: How do you feel your expertise has
helped other IT professionals?
A1: Hopefully by reading this interview and
checking out any of my publications or presentations, others can get excited
about learning a new product or technology and reduce the amount of
troubleshooting they may experience. When I was the president of the Triangle
NT User Group, the best reward for all my efforts was seeing how people got
excited about learning something new and then commenting awhile later how
quickly they came up to speed.
Q: Kenton, thank you again for your time,
and consideration in doing this interview.
A: It was my pleasure… thanks again for the